Why social media is important
Social media has been one of the most dramatic ways in which communication with the world has evolved since the invention of the basic telephone in the 1800s.
Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram have exploded in the past decade and are now accessible on a wide range of devices used by people from all four corners of the world.
Whether you’re a young entrepreneur or an international business, everyone is making use of social media.
But why has it become so influential?
Well, first off, it’s important to understand that since their recent boom, social networks are still one of the fastest growing industries in the world.
Facebook alone has around 1.55 billion active monthly users, so from a marketing point of view, it’s invaluable.
And with that many people forming such a large audience, it's something that brands really can't fail to exploit.
A recent survey by The Statistics Portal found that on average, global internet users spend some 109 minutes per day surfing social networks. This has prompted worldwide brands and their marketers to use that time and screen space to promote various products and services.
Companies have different approaches to how they do this. Take Irish bookmaker Paddy Power for example.
Mícheál Nagle, head of social and digital content at Paddy Power, recently told The Telegraph that the company tries to create ‘fun’ posts that engage with customers for 80% of the time, whilst only trying to upsell with products or offers for the remaining 20%.
It acts like ‘one of the lads’ through its humorous presence on social media and although it’s sometimes known for being controversial, it knows what it’s doing.
Paddy Power’s mix of banter, mischief and disruption on Twitter and Facebook receives hundreds, even thousands of comments, likes and shares, and it’s this audience interaction that has given the bookmaker more than half the followers of its rivals on social media.
Poundland’s X-rated Twitter feed starring its ‘naughty elf’ during the 2017 countdown to Christmas also caused a controversial storm, but was dubbed by many as the marketing campaign of Christmas for its high audience engagement.
Whereas companies such as innocent use social media to promote their brand through innovative, playful and soft-sale content, which proves just as successful in audience engagement, and that’s ultimately what businesses on social media aspire to achieve, getting people talking about their brand.
As well as its ability to help companies engage with current and potential new customers, social media is also influential in terms of acting as a mouthpiece for high-profile users.
US President Donald Trump is a prime example of this. Appearing in the news constantly (often with fairly negative coverage), Mr Tump uses platforms such as Twitter to voice his own opinion, whilst cutting out the middle man.
He can slam any negative press against him as ‘fake news’, knowing his some 47 million followers are hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were. This brings a level of authenticity that third-party outlets can struggle to achieve. And Twitter, like all other social media channels, can be used in real-time if needed e.g. responding to an accusation on live TV.
Other big-name celebrities like Kim Kardashian utilise all forms of social media, okay… more Snapchat and Instagram than LinkedIn, to keep her swarm of fame-obsessed fans up to date with what she’s doing around the clock, whilst soft selling her beauty products.
A recent survey by GlobalWebIndex demonstrated that social media users have leaned towards visiting these networks to stay informed on current news and events as opposed to just keeping in touch with friends – which could be argued is what most of these platforms were created for.
This trend towards using social media as a source for news consumption or entertainment indicates how behaviours are continuing to evolve in the social arena, and shows why companies like Bloomberg Media and Twitter are partnering on livestreamed news coverage network TicToc, and why Facebook has bet on its video hub, Watch.
It is also important to note that, as of recent times, social networking has demonstrated a clear shift towards mobile platforms.
Smartphone and tablet apps have facilitated the constant presence of mobile-first or mobile-only platforms such as Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat.
We’re all guilty of spending so much of our free time flicking through apps on our phones, tablets or computers that, from a business point of view, it’s something they can take advantage of.
And who can blame them? Social media is a great outlet for creative marketing efforts, while expending far less in personal resources. It allows information to be shared quickly and is why companies have gotten in on the act, with almost all UK businesses having some sort of social media presence.
For most, social networks allow users to be part of a community, not dictated by space or location. In general, these communities tend not to be exclusive, nor do they have insurmountable barriers of entry, hence why there are currently around 3 billion social media accounts – almost half the world’s population.
So overall, social media’s monumental effect on global communication in the past decade has encouraged businesses to join its ever-growing communities, where they can engage with consumers in a cheap and far-reaching environment.
Creative communication agencies like Pic PR utilise social media platforms to make sure businesses reach their audiences through carefully crafted video, photography and press, tailored to each companies’ needs.
This combination of communication strategies enables businesses to engage with their audiences through valuable, personal and creative content.
Social media is, and will continue to be, the key player of online communication, and with such a vast amount of users reaching out through social channels, into what can be a giant void if not done properly, it is paramount to have a structured plan in place when entering the social arena to ensure your voice is heard.
In the words of author Marcus Sheridan, “If what you are doing doesn’t add value, they won’t listen to you”.